Larissa Hall Carlson, Kripalu Yoga teacher and Ayurveda specialist, shares a body scan meditation to bring you to a calm, relaxed state.
The following heart-based meditation comes from the Institute of HeartMath, in Boulder Creek, California, and is a wonderful technique to redirect the mind and replace negative emotions with positive ones.
First, get your body in a comfortable, relaxed position and focus on breathing slowly and rhythmically, so that the length of your inhalations and exhalations are about the same. Find a breath rate that feels sustainable for you. Next, bring your awareness to the center of your chest and imagine your breath flowing in and out of your heart center. As you continue to breathe in and out of your heart, remember a time when you felt a positive emotion such as gratitude, joy, or love.
Think about being with loved ones, a beloved pet, appreciation for the good things in your life. This associative memory generates a positive emotion. If you can’t recall such a memory, then simply imagine a positive feeling moving in and out of your heart as you breathe. If your mind wanders, gently return to the positive feeling, allowing the sensations of gratitude, love, or joy to flow with your breath. Continue to circulate this heartfelt feeling for a few breaths, or even for a few minutes. Then pause to notice the effects of the practice.
Goddess Pose, or Deviasana, represents the feminine force that created the universe. Hara is a Japanese martial arts term meaning “center of being,” and it refers to the stomach, or solar plexus, where the body’s vital healing energy is generated. Goddess Pose, in combination with breathing from the hara, is a powerful way to revitalize and renew the body, mind, and spirit. When the body’s hara is clear and open, vital energy can freely move down through the pelvis and legs and into the earth for grounding. However, fear, pain, and anxiety can cause this energy to become blocked. Goddess pose with hara breathing opens up the hips and chest so that power, strength, and energy can circulate freely.
Ready to try it out? Here’s how:
I’ve been interviewing healers and spiritual teachers for a while now, and when I ask them how to live a healthier and happier life, many offer the same answer: meditate.
I hate that answer. When I was 19, I attended a 10-day meditation retreat that necessitated giving up my worldly possessions for the length of the stay, not talking, not making eye contact with anyone, and sitting in silence from 6:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night, with short breaks for meals and meditation lectures. By day two, I was like a prisoner of war planning the Great Escape. One morning after breakfast, when no one was looking, I fled the retreat in a frenzy; I just couldn’t sit in silence for 10 days and do nothing. OK, so maybe “fled” is somewhat of an exaggeration, but the bottom line is I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m just not a fan of meditation. An admirer, yes, but not a fan.
But according to Panache Desai, the spiritual teacher and inspirational visionary who chatted with me during our Kripalu Perspectives podcast, you don’t need to meditate to live a healthier and more joyful life—you just need to incorporate one of the essential elements of meditation into your day.
“Watch your breath,” says Desai, “the inhalation and the exhalation.”
The heart beats in a faithful and constant rhythm throughout a lifetime. To keep the heart nourished and happy, heart-opening backbends can work wonders. Backbends create space for energy to move more freely to and from the heart, connecting one to the qualities of love, security, and compassion. Backbends also enhance circulation, nourish the spine, increase lung capacity, and regulate the endocrine system.
Try a simple, seated backbend to help you open your heart this winter. Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your spine tall.